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Mary Slaney charged at a press conference Thursday in New York that Chuck DeBus, former coach of the Los Angeles Track Club, suggested in 1978 that she needed to take drugs if she wanted to keep up with the rest of the running world.

Slaney said she was 19 when DeBus, then a prominent coach, approached her about performance-enhancing drugs."He said I wouldn't be able to perform internationally if I didn't take drugs," Slaney said at a news conference held in conjunction with Saturday's L'eggs Mini Marathon. "He was trying to recruit me for the (Los Angeles) Naturite Track Club."

In Los Angeles, DeBus told the Los Angeles Times that he did not recall having any such discussion with Slaney.

A three-member panel of The Athletics Congress, the national governing body for track and field, will conduct a hearing July 11 in the Los Angeles area, at which time a dozen individuals who have made similar accusations against DeBus will be asked to tell their stories.

However, Alvin Chriss, who will represent TAC at the hearing, characterized Slaney's charge Thursday as not useful and said he did not intend to call her as a witness.

"I have found many, many people who, nine years or so after the fact, are willing to come forward," Chriss said from TAC's office in Indianapolis. "I really can't do much with that information if it's 11 years old.

"I do not want to criticize Mary Slaney. I have complete confidence that what Mary said is true. But the world is full of people who are willing to tell me information that is 11 years old.

"What I haven't got is anybody willing to tell me about the 1988 Olympics. I'm waiting for someone who is big and brave and strong to come forward and tell me about 1988."

DeBus, reached at his home in Santa Monica, Calif., said, "Regrettably, many athletes I have known over the years have inquired about steroids. I have absolutely no recollection of ever having a discussion with Mary where the use of drugs ever came up."

Chriss pointed out that even if DeBus did suggest to Slaney that she use drugs, there was no rule against it in 1978. TAC's "incitement rule," which prohibits coaches or others from encouraging athletes to use drugs, was put on the books only 18 months ago.

"It may not have been morally right, but it wasn't against the rules," Chriss said.